Yesterday was meant to be a day off. I try and take one day off per week, to spend time with my family. Being self-employed, it is harder than I thought it would be. Being highly ambitious, it gets even harder.
First of all, in the self-employed position the lines between work and the rest of life are not clearly defined, and I often feel guilty if I’m not producing when I could be. Shouldn’t I be actively providing at ALL TIMES???
In order to combat this propensity and to carve out some time for my family, who absolutely deserve far more than I could ever give them, I have set aside one day which is meant to be the un-questioned, un-interrupted family day. Except that it never is. Things come up. People need things that feel urgent to them, and often to me too.
After watching more than one “day off” crumble under urgent matters, and thinking to myself on multiple occasions, “So much for my so-called day off,” I began to ponder just how I could protect that time more effectively.
Here are a few easy tactics that I’ve put to work for myself.
This is step one to taking back your time. Set some boundaries and share them with those around you.
Let’s play pretend. Pretend I’m working for you and you need something on a Sunday afternoon. I say, “Sorry, I’ll be happy to get to that tomorrow for you.” You might feel a bit neglected.
If, at the start of our involvement, I were to say, “Please understand, I reserve Sundays for spending time with my wonderful wife and two boys,” then the same scenario would most likely not bother you at all. You’d be expecting it! Exact same situation—totally different perception and results.
Purposefully shaping expectations is the crucial step one to taking back your time–without neglecting your responsibilities.
The Power of “No”
It seems simple, like it doesn’t need to be said, and yet I know that I need to do this far more frequently. The challenge that most of us face when we have difficulty saying “No” (even though we know we should), is the fear of loss. I’ve found that if I’ve already done step number one, this fear of loss is typically unfounded.
Before saying “no,” we imagine a person becoming aggravated or questioning our commitment, etc. In reality, most of the time, if you say “no” and provide an alternative (i.e. “I’m really sorry, I can’t do that tomorrow, I already have an appointment on the books. Does later afternoon or the next morning work?”), people are pretty reasonable and understanding.
The truth is, you may lose here and there. If I protect my schedule vigilantly, opening it up to important time with my family as well as to working far more efficiently on the most important things, and in the process I lose a client, I know that I’ve gained far more than I’ve lost. Additionally, do I really want that client, who simply has no respect for my time? Definitely not.
This is a skill that I am still honing. Every time that I employ this tactic, the fantastic benefits and potential upside to leveraging my time this way become very clear to me. Particularly as my real estate and investing careers have grown, and I have come to see my time as increasingly valuable, it has become easier and easier to see the benefits of paying someone I trust to handle tasks that may not require my unique skill set.
Delegating skillfully is an art form worthy of far more than a single blog post. We’ll get to that in the near future. Suffice it to say, a theme among the strategies of successful people that I admire is their passionate championing of the benefits of using a virtual assistant, or VA. (You should look into it!)
Leveraging delegation takes many forms. We do it every day, we just don’t realize it. I encourage you to being exploring the various ways that this can work and benefit your schedule.
Remember, time is a non-renewable resource. Your time is your time until you decide to give it away. To whom or to what you give it is completely your decision.
We know it’s important to have a “why” behind the things that we do, especially when we are intending to change and grow, and re-write our habits. So take a moment to imagine, in what ways will your life, work, relationships improve as you work to take more deliberate control of your schedule?